Hey man, how’s it going? I would like to sugar coat the meaty contents of this letter by first saying congratulations on making it to the Super Bowl, as you and your 49ers teammates have made the city of San Francisco beam with football pride for the first time in many years. That is wonderful.
More importantly, I have a personal favor I’d like to ask of you. Please don’t apologize for your homophobic comments, attempt to rephrase or claim your words were taken out of context.
I’m not sure even the best and brightest of the PR world could find a way to spin this (courtesy of the Mercury News):
“I don’t do the gay guys man,” Culliver said. “I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.
“Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah … can’t be … in the locker room man. Nah.”
Culliver suggested that homosexual athletes keep their sexuality private until 10 years after they retire.
Apparently, Artie Lange is the new Oprah, getting guys like you to open up about such controversial subjects. Impressive!
Here’s the thing Chris. Personally, I respect your right to freely discuss your opinions, any time, any place. I’m sure the majority of San Franciscans agree, given the Bay Area’s storied history of the peace movement, freedom of speech and gay rights activism.
This is why I implore you not to attempt to color these comments as something other than what they are; the dark truth that homophobia and strong anti-gay views remain deeply rooted in the world of professional sports.
Sure, there are other guys sprinkled throughout pro sports, for instance, your fellow NFL pals Brendon Ayanbadejo, Chris Kluwe and Scott Fujita, who are openly supportive of civil rights in this country, including LGBT rights. But clearly the movement is not yet powerful enough to have impacted you, despite your own team’s efforts to join the cause.
While it was a poor business move to publicly reveal your feelings about gays as a member of a San Francisco-based organization, there is no going back so you may as well resign to moving forward.
Should you apologize for hurting people’s feelings or offending them? That seems fair. You can stick by something you say while feeling bad that others are hurt by it. In a weird and twisted way, I actually respect Lance Armstrong for a non-apology he gave Oprah in their sit-down interview.
Instead of taking the apology bait when Oprah asked him if he felt remorse, Armstrong’s response was, “everybody that gets caught is bummed out they got caught.” Finally, he was honest about something.
Chris, you are strong enough to take the Lance route on this one.
Don’t be like your Super Bowl opponent Terrell Suggs who, after verbally decimating the “arrogant prick” Patriots, received a talking-to from teammate Ray Lewis, and consequently changed his tune to, “people don’t like them because they win,” in hopes of avoiding backlash. That’s weak sauce. Super weak.
Stick to your beliefs. Only if you mean it, say you’re sorry for offending anyone and then keep your mouth shut regarding this issue for the rest of the week.
And don’t worry about being excluded or treated as a leper back home in San Francisco after the Super Bowl. Most of the folks in the Bay are much more accepting than you, so you need not worry. It’s all good. In fact, I bet you’ll be even more popular upon your return, as the locals will surely stop you on the street for a quick chat from time to time, in hopes that maybe, just maybe their open-mindedness might rub off on you.
UPDATE: Well, looks like Chris didn’t read my letter. Bummer.
49ers statement, on behalf of Chris Culliver:
“The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.”